Tornado Sirens in the Oklahoma City Metro Area

Tornado Sirens
Photo: Ryan McGinnis / Getty Images

For many years, there was no consistent meaning of a tornado siren in central Oklahoma.  For example, in Oklahoma City, it only meant for citizens to check a radio or television broadcast.  This was due to the large geographical size of the city.  A person on the far north side, therefore, could be facing immediate danger from a tornado on the ground while someone in south Oklahoma City is perfectly safe.  Unfortunately, this caused situations in which people ignored OKC sirens.  In neighboring communities such as Edmond and Moore, the meaning was much simpler.  Take cover immediately.

Well, in late 2015, Oklahoma City officials announced the siren system would be divided into zones.  Now, several metro area communities coordinate the tornado siren message to create a uniform system.  Here is information on outdoor tornado sirens in Oklahoma City.

What does it mean if I hear a tornado siren?

It means your immediate area is under a National Weather Service tornado warning.  This differs from a watch in that warnings are issued when a tornado is either occurring or very soon may occur.  Watches just mean that conditions are favorable and one should remain alert.   

What should I do if hear a tornado siren?

Seek shelter immediately.  If you don't have an underground shelter, you should have a tornado plan already in place identifying the best central, windowless area.  Also, here are some tips to help you figure out where to go if you're in a car.  Keep in mind also that there are no public tornado shelters in Oklahoma City; however, the same principles for shelter areas in the home generally apply to public areas.  You want low, central, windowless rooms, closets or pantries.

Once you're in the safest possible place, seek more information from a local television or radio outlet.

The siren stopped.  Is the threat over?

Not necessarily.  And there is no "all clear" siren.  The best thing to do is just pay attention to the local meteorologists until the tornado has passed your area.

It's sunny and beautiful outside.  What am I hearing a tornado siren?

Is it Saturday at noon?  If so, that's just a test.

I live outside of Oklahoma City.  Does this siren information apply to me?

The operation of tornado sirens is a local thing.  The above policies apply to residents of Oklahoma City, Bethel Acres, Del City, Edmond, Midwest City, Moore, Norman, Tecumseh, Yukon, Canadian County and Oklahoma County.  If you don't live in one of these areas, contact your city offices for information on sirens.

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